The Madras High Court stated that Right to Privacy is a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India and held that a person acquitted of all charges is entitled to redact his name from the ruling so as to ensure that his Right to Privacy is not being violated.
The petitioner was charged with offences punishable under Section 417 and 376 of the India Penal Code, 1860 (Hereinafter referred to as IPC) and was convicted by the Trial Court. On appeal, the High Court acquitted the petitioner from all the charges and was no longer an accused in the eyes of law. However, his name was still reflected in the judgment rendered by the High Court and a Google search of the petitioner’s name brought them to the judgment, in which he was being identified as the accused, even though he was acquitted.
The petitioner contended that the presence of his name in the judgment as an accused even though he was acquitted, was impacting the petitioner’s reputation in the eyes of the Society. Therefore, he wanted to redact his name from the judgment.
The Court referred to the case of Puttasamy v. Union of India (2017), in which the Supreme Court had held that
“Right to Privacy is a fundamental right which is traceable to Article 21 of the Constitution of India.”
The Court stated that the legislature has passed laws to protect the identity of victims who are women and children. However, such protection of the right to privacy has not been extended to a person who has been acquitted of all charges.
According to the Court, “there was a prima facie case made out by the petitioner and that he was entitled to redact his name to protect his right to privacy.”
Additionally, the Court took notice of the Data Protection Bill 2019, the objective of which is to protect the data and privacy of a person.
The Court had also placed reliance upon the interim order that was passed by the Delhi High Court in a similar issue, in which the Court had directed websites to redact the name of the petitioner. Furthermore, the Court was informed that right to be forgotten is being sought to be included under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
The Court directed the respondents to file written submissions and posted the matter for final arguments on 28th July, 2021.